From Last Night:
- Matt Joyce walks-off in an 8-7 win over the Orioles
- Joey Votto, not to be outdone, hits a walk-off single not ten minutes later in a 5-4 win over the Halos
- Ervin Santana allows 3 HR in his Royals debut, loses to the White Sox
- Matt Harvey tosses 7 1-hit innings and fans 10 Padres in an 8-4 win
- Halladay strikes out 9, walks 3, and allows 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Braves
What I’m Watching Today:
- Cliff Lee and Kris Medlen face off in Atlanta in the only premier pitching matchup of the day (7p Eastern)
The Big Question:
- Which #3/4 starters will give their teams a boost in the first week?
The early season is a great time for hilarious quirks of small sample sizes. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that yesterday I was abuzz about Yu Darvish’s -0.27 FIP. In other words, FIP thinks his strikeout rate, walk rate, homerun rate, and IFFB rate should yield outcomes that literally take runs away from the opposing team. That is quite impressive. Another sample size issue I’m tracking is which player is the first past 1.0 WAR. As I write this, Darvish’s 0.6 is the closest, but on average we wouldn’t expect to see it happen until we were about 10-20 games into the season. I think my money will be on Harper. Much of what happened last night can be encapsulated in the lines above, but yesterday was the first day in which all 30 teams were in action and the benefits of that were reaped by those of us watching around 10pm. I really missed watching MLB Network go back and forth as so many games went down to the wire. Man, baseball is great and I’m never sleeping again.
74-88, 4th in the NL East
The 2012 version of the Metropolitans was very compelling and super exciting into the early summer, but bottomed out as the dog days arrived. They were led by an MVP contender and the NL Cy Young, but the supporting cast wasn’t enough to make the Mets a player in one of the tougher divisions in the sport.
The afore-alluded to Wright (7.8) was worth more WAR than the next four position players combined. Only Ruben Tejada (2.1) and Scott Hairston (2.0) hit the 2.0 starter threshold. Ike Davis gets honorable mention for doing everything right except getting hits. Great power, good patience, but the .227 batting average dragged the whole thing down. He should be better in 2013.
R.A. Dickey had an RA-diculous season and was my (and the BBWAA) pick for Cy Young. Jonathan Niese also had a fine season, but no other pitcher made more than 21 starts. Johan Santana was good, but got hurt. Dillon Gee too. Chris Young was meh, but not bad for a 5th starter. Matt Harvey was eye-popping good, but only made 10 starts after his callup.
The bullpen was, let’s be generous, a weakness.
The Mets had some bright moments this year, especially the first no-hitter in franchise history, courtesy of Mr. Santana, and a wonderful string of dominance by Dickey. Wright signed an extension and Matt Harvey stepped into the spotlight.
The 2012 season shot some life into Mets fans for the first few months and faded down the stretch. I think they’re on their way up. The starting pitching is there.
A Dickey, Niese, Santana, Harvey, and Gee rotation is very good. If Zach Wheeler is ready to be the 1/2 a lot of us think he can be, they Mets could easily have a top five rotation.
They need offense. Wright is a good centerpiece and they have a handful of guys who can really fill out the bottom of a lineup. They need one or two more formidable bats to surround Wright near the top and they could be good to go.
It wasn’t a great year for the Mets, but the future looks bright.
2012 Grade: D
Early 2013 Projection: 80-82
The Royals really like buying low on starting pitching and they did it again today. Ervin Santana joins the AL Central as Kansas City sends minor league lefty Brandon Sisk the other way to the Angels.
Santana had a very poor season in 2012 and is owed $13 million in 2013, but the Royals were willing to gamble to improve their pitching staff in hopes of becoming a relevant baseball team in one of the weaker divisions in the sport.
He posted a -0.9 WAR this season to go along with his 5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP. In 2010 and 2011 he was above 2.0 WAR and had ERAs under 4.00 to pair with his very strong 5.8 WAR in 2008.
Santana’s had four 200+ inning seasons in his career and is entering his age 30 season. While I certainly wouldn’t offer him a long term deal, a one year contract is of pretty low risk for someone who can bring some upside and has no-hit stuff when he’s right.
From a player for player standpoint, the risk was worth taking, the real question is if $13 million is worth it for someone coming off such a bad season. Obviously the Royals think 2012 was an outlier and the real Santana is more like the 2010 and 2011 versions. The Angels take the other side.
It’s hard to imagine that this is the best way to spend $13 million this offseason for a club that needs multiple starters to really explode onto the scene, but if they are willing to expand the payroll it’s a risk worth taking.
Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, and Danny Duffy are the other four members of the Royals projected rotation at this point, but Chris Volstad and others will enter spring training with their sights on a spot.
Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals front office needed to target starting pitching this offseason given that their top two pitchers by WAR both came out of the bullpen in 2012. Santana is a risk worth taking if they’re going to increase payroll. If they’re allocating most of their offseason budget on Santana, however, I’d give them a failing grade.
On the Angels side, they got a live body for a player they didn’t want anymore, so you can’t really complain. They’ll likely use some of that Santana cash to bid heavily on Zach Greinke.
Free Agency starts Saturday, so stay tuned for updates.